Suspense 3: the "after Roma" years, December 1947 to July 1950
Suspense was a long-running dramatic anthology on CBS from Summer of 1942 to what many consider final day of radio's golden age on September 30, 1962. It was one of radio's most successful series, with exceptional writing and high production standards. The series started slow, but the May 1943 broadcast of the play Sorry, Wrong Number brought the show great attention. In December 1943, Suspense finally had a national sponsor, Roma Wines. Their sponsorship ended in November 1947. The series continued without a sponsor for a few months, and experimented with an hour-long format. In July 1948, a new sponsor, Auto-Lite, returned the program to its half-hour format and produced much of its finest work. In June 1954, the sponsorship ended, and Suspense continued without a national sponsor until it went off the air.
Hollywood's biggest movie and music stars appeared on the series from about 1943 to 1954, often playing against type, such as comedians playing dramatic roles. The program starred singers, musicians, and others in the Hollywood scene, and they were all held to a high standard of dramatic performance supported by some of radio's most esteemed actors, directors, and production personnel.
The Roma Wines sponsorship allowed the Suspense performances to have a higher budget for music, effects, acting talent, and all other aspects of production. It also made it possible to have separate east and west broadcasts so the time zones could have the performances in prime time listening hours. The only time Suspense had separate east and west performances was during the Roma sponsorship, except for two Saturday dates in August 1943, more than three months before Roma began.
For the first 10 months of the Roma sponsorship, CBS did not have an open time in its national schedule for the series. The East and Central time zones had their broadcast on Thursday. The entire cast and crew were brought back into the studio on Monday for a broadcast to the Mountain and Pacific time zones. Under the Roma sponsorship, the series became a top-rated program.
Roma attempted to end the sponsorship early in 1947 because they believed that they were not getting the sales increase they wanted for the money they were spending on the series. They tried to cancel, but Suspense won a Peabody Award in April 1947 for its 1946 broadcast of Dead Ernest. CBS twisted Roma's arm into two 13-week renewals, but it all came to an end in November, 1947.
The "after Roma" years have distinct periods: December 1947, the months of 60-minute broadcasts, the first Auto-Lite year under Anton Leader, the second Auto-Lite year under William Spier.
- December 1947 broadcasts that discontinued the east and west separate performances. These broadcasts were unsponsored, and it was likely that Suspense was going to be cancelled by the end of 1947. No original scripts were used in this period.
- The hour-long format was used in an attempt to mirror the high ratings of Lux Radio Theatre. Actor Robert Montgomery was brought on as a "big name" star and also as producer. William Spier and Montgomery would share leadership of the series and had big plans for some major productions. It gradually fell apart and Spier's relationship with CBS crumbled, and he left. After a few weeks for personal matters, he took over ABC's The Clock series as a snub to CBS.
- Anton Leader was brought in as producer from New York to finish the 60-minute format and lead Suspense in its return to a half hour under new sponsorship by Auto-Lite. The company would also sponsor the TV version of Suspense.
- Despite superb ratings, Leader had some friction with CBS and some of the ensemble supporting cast. Spier returned as producer for one year and Norman Macdonnell directed. Macdonnell benefited from the year under Spier and would become one of radio's finest producers and directors, known especially for Gunsmoke.
- Elliott Lewis took over starting with the 1950-1951 season, as recommended by Spier to CBS.
These recordings are part of the Joe Hehn Memorial Collection. Mr. Hehn (1931-2020) was a pioneering collector of radio recordings when the hobby emerged in the 1960s.
Since the time of Mr. Hehn's collecting in the 1960s and 1970s, many Suspense recordings have been upgraded and are now in better sound. The recordings held in this collection at the Internet Archive are only those considered to be superior to the ones for that date and geography in common circulation among collectors at the time of this posting. A small number of the recordings have not been in general circulation in their particular format, and some of the recordings are more complete than others in common circulation. This is not intended to be a complete compilation of the Suspense series, but to be only the best sounding Suspense recordings of the Hehn collection.
The Suspense recordings are in different categories:
- Suspense 1: the series early years, June 1942 to November 1943
- Suspense 2: the Roma Wines years, December 1943 to November 1947
- Suspense 3: the "after Roma" years, December 1947 to July 1950, including the first year of Auto-Lite's sponsorship
- Suspense 4: the Elliott Lewis years, August 1950 to July 1954 (to be available soon)
- Suspense 5: the final years, June 1954 to September 1962 (to be available soon)
Important abbreviations and notations:
- LQ = low quality sound, but still better than what is currently in circulation
- VLQ = very low quality sound, but still better than what is currently in circulation
= recorded off the air by a service or a home recorder rather than an
in-studio recording; airchecks may also be identified by the call
letters of the radio station in the file name
- COMPLETE = previously circulating recordings had a clipped opening or a clipped closing
- AFRS = recording from an Armed Forces Radio Service transcription
Digitizing Mr. Hehn's collection of reel tapes and discs is the effort of a wide range of North American volunteers, and includes assistance of some international collectors. The groups supporting this effort with their funds, time, technology and skills are the Old Time Radio Researchers and a small group of transcription disc preservationists who refer to themselves as the "The Knights of the Turning Table."
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